The Sharks will desperately be looking to turn their season around when they visit the Blues at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday.
After a torrid start which has seen three losses, a draw and a win, the knives are out for coach Robert du Preez.
The latest defeat, a 46-14 capitulation at the hands of the Rebels in Melbourne will be major cause for concern. Despite this, Du Preez has refused to panic, making just two changes to his side.
The Blues broke a 10-match losing streak against the Sharks in the previous meeting between the sides and they have won their last four games at home against South African opposition.
Coming off a bye week, the men from Auckland will be fresh and raring to go. The decision to move Rieko Ioane to inside centre is an exciting one and his partnership with fellow All Black George Moala will be fascinating to watch.
In fact, it was Moala and the younger Ioane brother who scored in the last meeting between the sides when the Blues ended a 10-match losing streak with a hard-fought 23-18 victory in April 2016.
This season it is Akira, the older Ioane, who is the try-scoring machine, having scored five in his last four. The battle between Akira and Jerome Kaino versus the likes of Jean-Luc du Preez in the battle for ascendancy at the breakdown will be titanic to say the least.
The Sharks have left Makazole Mapimpi out of this one and continue to place their trust in Curwin Bosch at full-back, which is the conversative option. The prospect of Sbu Nkosi and Mapimpi on the wings with Lwazi Mvovo at full-back is a mouthwatering one.
Both sides boast plenty of talent but have been perennial underachievers in their respective decisions and will be looking to try and rectify that reputation come Saturday.
Team news: Blues head coach Tana Umaga has made seven changes to his starting XV and shifted Rieko Ioane to inside centre for the clash. With the loss of Sonny Bill Williams to a wrist injury that will see the mercurial playmaker sidelined for six weeks, it allows the opportunity to experiment. Ioane will pair up alongside fellow All Black George Moala in the midfield.
There is also a new starting half-back combination with scrum-half Jonathan Ruru rewarded with the number nine jersey alongside fly-half Stephen Perofeta, coming in for Sam Nock and Bryn Gatland.
Right wing Jordan Trainor and North Harbour prop Mike Tamoaieta make their Super Rugby starting debuts in place of Matt Duffie and Ofa Tu’ungafasi, while Northland’s Josh Goodhue comes in for Gerard Cowley-Tuioti at lock.
Meanwhile, the Sharks team just two changes to the starting line-up with continuity keeping the side mostly intact.
While coach Robert du Preez said execution was a problem area against the Rebels last week, he felt that there was no lack of effort from the players and has stuck with the team, making just one change amongst the forwards and one in the backline.
Philip van der Walt who flew over to replace the injured Wian Vosloo, has come in for the suspended Jacques Vermeulen, while Andre Esterhuizen returns after missing last week’s match, displacing Marius Louw to the bench. Tyler Paul replacing Wian Vosloo amongst the replacements is the final change to the matchday 23.
2016: Blues won 23-18 in Auckland
2014: Sharks won 29-23 in Albany
2013: Sharks won 22-20 in Durban
2012: Sharks won 29-23 in Auckland
2011: Sharks won 26-12 in Durban
2010: Sharks won 23-10 in Durban
2009: Sharks won 35-31 in Auckland
2008: Sharks won 22-17 in Durban
2007: Sharks won 34-18 in Durban
Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Jordan Trainor, 13 George Moala, 12 Rieko Ioane, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Stephen Perofeta, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Murphy Taramai, 6 Jerome Kaino, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Josh Goodhue, 3 Mike Tamoaieta, 2 James Parsons (c), 1 Pauliasi Manu
Replacements: 16 Leni Apisai, 17 Ross Wright, 18 Sione Mafileo, 19 Jimmy Tupou, 20 Kara Pryor, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Bryn Gatland, 23 TJ Faiane
Sharks: 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Sbu Nkosi, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Tera Mtembu, 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Philip van der Walt, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Ruan Botha (c), 3 Thomas du Toit, 2 Akker van der Merwe, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Franco Marais, 17 Juan Schoeman, 18 John-Hubert Meyer, 19 Hyron Andrews, 20 Tyler Paul, 21 Cameron Wright, 22 Marius Louw, 23 Jacobus van Wyk
Date: Saturday, March 31
Venue: Eden Park
Kick-off: 19:35 local (06:35 GMT)
Referee: Nick Briant (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand), Angus Mabey (New Zealand)
Television match official: Ben Skeen (New Zealand)